Technology matters

Just months after heading into Election Day with a broken get-out-the-vote infrastructure and an expectation of victory based on everything except hard data, Republicans are realizing that perhaps they need to consider those newfangled campaign tools.

Thus, we have a group of conservatives talking about replicating the organizations on the left that churn out campaign operatives and develop the next round of campaign technologies and strategies. They think the problem is a lack of organization, when in fact, it’s a lack of talent.


Simply put, Democrats didn’t get good at technology because they undertook central planning. They are good at it because they have an army of grassroots technologists dedicating themselves and their talents to building the progressive technology infrastructure. Republicans depend on mercenary engineers, and as Mitt Romney found out last year, there’s a limit to how much passionless work-for-hire hackers will deliver to a political campaign.

It’s no surprise that techies are predominantly liberal and Democratic. By definition, anyone interested in technology also believes in science, education and research — three areas long scorned by conservatives.

“We all work on evidence-based reasoning, and that’s much more of a Democratic mindset than a Republican mindset,” said San Francisco software engineer Johnvey Hwang to the San Jose Mercury News after last year’s election. “It’s hard to side with a party that’s still trying to reach out to their base of creationists.”

But it goes beyond that — the tech community is a strong proponent of net neutrality, the idea that all Internet data should be treated equally and that access providers should not be able to add roadblocks to limit access on their networks to keep competitors out or to censor unpopular content — such as

AT&T’s infamous 2007 decision to block Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder’s anti-George W. Bush rant during a concert webstream. Those very same “young conservative technologists” who are now trying to build new conservative technology infrastructure have featured prominently in telecom industry efforts to beat back net-neutrality regulations.

Similarly, legislation prohibiting towns and cities in South Carolina from providing residents free municipal Wi-Fi didn’t escape the notice of the major technology publications, nor the fact that the legislation was heavily pushed by AT&T and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. Similar ALEC-authored bills have passed in places like Texas, Nebraska and Utah, and are being considered in more than half the states. Conservatives want what’s best for AT&T and Comcast: a corporatist über alles mentality at odds with the tech community.

So it’s no surprise that the nation’s top technology centers, from traditional hubs in Silicon Valley, New York City and Boston to upstart tech hubs in Northern Virginia, North Carolina’s Research Triangle and Austin, Texas, are all hotbeds of multiculturalism, gay tolerance and secularism. It’s no accident that all those regions delivered strong votes for President Obama in 2012, or donated to Democrats by more than 2 to 1. More than 90 percent of donations from Apple employees went to Obama. Indeed, Virginia and North Carolina have become competitive at the presidential level precisely because of the “creative class” professionals that have emerged around their technology hubs. Take out the D.C. suburbs, and Virginia is Alabama.

It’s progress, I guess, that conservatives now realize that they suck at technology, but that’s because they suck at attracting tech-savvy individuals to their party. Could that change? Sure, if the GOP evolves. But as we’ve learned, conservatives don’t do evolution.

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com)